Taglines: How to Boost Your Brand Meaning

Be sure to add your brand tagline

When done right – and for the right reasons – a compelling tagline brings gravitas to your brand. Those few, succinct words can sum up your company’s reason for being. A tagline can convey your benefit to the market. Or it can express a compelling idea about your company and carry the same impact as an ad. 

So it’s a given, right? You should always have one?

Not so fast. 

The Case for No Taglines 

Many brands don’t use taglines, and with good reason. Our shorter attention spans and the intensity of our communications environment has created tune-out. Taglines today compete with hashtags and content headlines, blurring impact and creating over-communications. It’s harder today to introduce a tagline and have it resonate. Today’s customers aren’t swayed so much by a pithy brand statement as they are by smart call-to-actions that drive behavior. 

Stylistically as well, they can be cumbersome. Pictures, videos, infographics, and GIFs are replacing words and are stronger in breakthrough power, memorability, likeability, and sharing.  As communications becomes more visual, a tagline can clunk up your logo and styling (since they should always be presented together for the intended effect). This is a particular headache for brands that use imagery to express the brand (fashion and beauty brands come to mind). It creates unnecessary wordiness and complexity in a visual world.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – a tagline can over-explain your brand, weakening the impact of your communications strategy. Over-explaining means your customers will tune out your messaging. Dominant brands have all walked away from slogans – think Nike, Apple, Starbucks – because the value proposition and benefit is known, and having one doesn’t add anything to the brand. 

So…No taglines, right? 

Not so fast (again). 

As stated earlier, a tagline can be really effective for boosting your brand meaning if done well AND it serves a purpose. Use one… because your brand needs it. Here’s when we recommend you use a tagline:

  1. You need to explain your reason for being. A tagline can express your brand character, purpose and culture. Consider BASF’s “We create chemistry” or Lexus’ tagline upon entering the US Market: “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”  These brands were building credibility and awareness, and wanted to convey a clear attribute about their brand to their customers.
  1. You’re repositioning your company. A tagline can help reframe what customers believe about you and enhance your overall value proposition. Consider GE’s transition from “We bring good things to life” to their current tagline, “Imagination at Work.” The new slogan refocuses attention on the company’s level of commitment to deliver innovation and creative solutions.
  1. You need to express your brand’s benefit. Consider when M&Ms launched, they wanted to convey their candy was one you could eat with your fingers, but it wasn’t messy. Their iconic line,  “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” captured that succinctly.
  1. You’re introducing an entirely new business model and want to make clear what your company does. When they launched, Ebay’s tagline “Your online trading community” worked hard to explain their value proposition. After a number of years (and iterations of taglines) they stopped using one because the market understood Ebay’s offering; there was no need to communicate this point anymore. 
  1. To stand out. A great slogan can cut through communication clutter and create connection, like Loreal’s iconic “Because you’re worth it” and Apple’s “Think different.” These brands wanted to stand out in hotly competitive markets and used their taglines to capture attention. While the taglines were highly effective at the time, both brands have stopped using these taglines for reasons mentioned above. 

So is a tagline is right for your brand? 

In short, it depends on your brand, your customer’s understanding of your offering and if there’s a need to communicate a particular message. Attention is expensive. You never want to abuse your customer’s attention by over-communicating something that is unnecessary. But if you have a true communications need, a tagline can work wonders to boost  your brand’s visibility and meaning. If you’re interested in discovering if a tagline is right for your brand, drop us a note. We’re always happy to consult and to help make your brand magnetic to success.